From Harford County Government:
David R. Craig, Harford County Executive
February 1, 2011
“There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternatives, finding fault, but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side.”
This is as true today as it was when John Kennedy confronted it fifty years ago.
This was never more so true than during an election year. But, while we confronted many challenges in Harford County in 2010, there was one challenge we wisely avoided – the inability of many in government to work together, and overcome personal and political differences, to achieve positive results for the people we represent. That is why I firmly believe that unlike all but one other county in Maryland and most other counties in our country all of our local officials whether Republican or Democrat were re-elected to continue the work we began years ago.
Council President Boniface and members of the Council, I look forward to serving with you in this unprecedented situation. But before I look forward I would like to recap the successes that were achieved in 2010 and the State of the County as we see it today.
It is often easy to forget past achievements especially when they are so widespread. Much of it is only possible through the leadership of the team of department heads and the talent and dedication they give to the county.
This past February we were hit with two large back-to-back snow storms. The Department of Public Works under the leadership of Bob Cooper and the Division of Highways under the direction of Hudson Myers were instrumental in getting us through it.
Cooperation with Parks and Recreation and Emergency Operations proved efficient and tireless and we owe great appreciation to the men and women, who drove the trucks, repaired the equipment, accepted the phone calls, and dispatched the trucks – for without them a true disaster would have ensued. And, I must especially recognize Linda Rickey who has since retired.
DPW also faced, and will continue to face, the challenge of having over $14 million of Highway User Revenue kept by the State, money our tax payers were promised would come to Harford County to maintain our roads and bridges, but which continues to disappear.
The Office of Economic Development under Jim Richardson continues to set the model for the State of Maryland for job creation. Over 20 new defense contractors have relocated in Harford County in the last 18 months with recent ribbon cuttings involving MITRE RAYTHEON and Boeing to mention a few. But OED is not just about BRAC. New commercial and retail business continues to relocate. And, while new housing starts have been down we continue to be in the 2nd best economic and job market in the country.
Denise Carnaggio continues her excellent work as the face of BRAC. Karen Holt is instrumental with the CSSC in our regional approach. And, Wini Roche our leader in marketing and tourism was named State Tourism Leader of the year.
One of our most thrilling successes came from the leadership of a member of the team who choose to retire, John Scotten, our previous treasurer. Our conservative fiscal management in these harsh economic times took us to an historic and unprecedented AAA Bond rating – the opposite direction that many other counties took.
Another member of the team who has chosen to retire was instrumental in one of our biggest challenges – the budget. Lorraine Costello and her superb budget director Kim Spence assembled a budget that saw us return to 2007 levels without furloughs but with the second reduction of the property tax rate. Historically, for the first time since its inception, we kept our rate at the constant yield, and lowered the tax cap for the second time to the state average of 5%. Our actions remind me of a comment by a previous political leader.
“The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, people must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance” No, it was not Ronald Reagan in 1980. It is from Cicero in 55 BC! Captain Jim McMahan did not know Cicero personally but has been instrumental in this effort.
Some of our achievements are often unnoticed and less glamorous but equally important the final successful resolution of a law suit brought against the county over twenty years ago and including three appearances in the Court of Appeals is a great credit to County Attorney Rob McCord and Deputy County Attorney Nancy Giorno.
The opening of the Roni Chenowith Activity Center in Fallston was a major accomplishment both for Parks and Recreation under Arden McClune and Community Services under Mary Chance. Over 1,000 of our senior citizens and countless young athletes have benefited from its opening – a worthy reminder of Councilwoman Chenowith – and a credit to Councilman Woods. Community Services was also the key to success in the demolition and clean up of Washington Court making the area both cleaner and safer. Councilman Guthrie was a strong advocate for this important project.
Protecting our environment continues to be a major action. Tom Hilton helped take the lead in pushing single stream recycling something which has already seen us have a 30% increase in recycling, a cause which has been assisted by Councilman Shrodes.
After a very successful 2009 and knowing that 2011 would offer just a many challenges, Pete Gutwald in Planning and Zoning completed our Transportation Element Plan and our Historic Preservation Element Plan, both issues which gained support and impact from Councilwoman Lisanti.
While the Department of Inspections, License, and Permits worked on many issues none was as important as the danger to employees that we faced with the building at 212 S. Bond. Dick Lynch’s quick and incisive actions were proactive and well justified.
Dick’s cooperation with Jim Richardson, Pete Gutwald, and Bob Cooper on “Fast Track” issues have also proved instrumental in getting new businesses to locate here and build our economic base.
In these economically challenging times the foreclosure on homes has proved detrimental both to citizens and government. Shawn Kingston and his staff have helped over 3,000 of our neighbors to stay in decent housing and many to work with their financial institutions to avoid becoming homeless.
Debbie Henderson and the Procurement Department have done an excellent job in helping us live within our means negotiating lower more affordable contracts in almost every department.
And, probably one of the most challenging tasks has been that of Scott Gibson, Director of Human Resources. In years in which we have been unable to provide raises, new jobs, or promotions – and have had to furlough employees and change benefits – Scott has provided balance to spread the pain. I thank all of the team for their hard work.
Some familiar faces have retired: Roxanne Lynch, Joe Pfaff, Lorraine Costello, John Scotten, Larry Mabe, Linda Rickey, and Ernie Crist – all with a wealth of institutional knowledge and decades of service.
Some new faces have appeared: Arden McClune, Beth Hendrix, Brian Fiest, and Kathryn Hewitt.
Some have relocated Mary Chance, Nancy Giorno, and one I see everyday and would not be able to do what I have to do – Aaron Tomarchio. Thank you all on my behalf and on behalf of the people of Harford County.
“Let us stop asking ourselves if it is necessary to do more now. Let us ask ourselves what more we can do today. So we will have less to sacrifice tomorrow.” That was great advice given by Gilbert Winant. General Nathaniel Greene at the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse stated it in simpler terms. “People expect something from us.”
What will the State of the County be? What are the issues confronting us in 2011 – and beyond? First, our government could not have been as successful – and will not continue to be as successful – without the continued leadership of Council President Boniface.
Our ability to agree, and to agree to disagree, to work past personal issues and concentrate on real issues is vital. The separation of powers from the executive and legislative branches does not dictate a separation of interests.
Let me list some of the challenges, expectations, and needs:
-An update of the Master plan and Land Use Element to ensure that we are ready for proper growth.
-A unified water and sewer infrastructure encompassing the entire county, all three municipalities, and APG.
-Education, the foundation of economic growth, both on the operation side – to make it as efficient as possible, and enable us to afford the best teachers and staff – and the capital side with potentially new schools needed at Havre de Grace High, Youth Benefit Elementary, William Paca Elementary, and John Archer. I rely on the “Coach” – Councilman Slutzky – as much as anyone on this issue.
-The hidden, unseen infrastructure of the 21st Century, with the need for the HMAN project, and wireless accessibility, and possibly a department-level leader in Justus Eapen.
-Adequate funding to enable the City of Aberdeen to maintain one of our jewels Ripken Stadium, and to possibly fund a Performing Arts Center or convention/meeting Center or Agriculture Center.
-The need for a new and efficient County office building to save money by eliminating the cost of rentals and repairs to reduce energy costs and to have one location for citizens to visit.
-And, to not forget our citizens, to keep government small and efficient, to keep taxes low, to provide the services they need.
Good judgment seeks balance and progress. We must balance the private and the public economy. We must balance the clear necessities and the comfortable desires. We must balance the requirements of government and the needs of the individual.
As we succeed in all of this we will ensure that the State of Harford County remains unexcelled in the State of Maryland.